A pair of mostly peaceful marches on Friday in the city of Ferguson, Missouri kicked off a long weekend of action designed to continue and expand the challenge to racism and police violence that was sparked two months ago in the mid-western city after a black teenager was shot and killed by a white police officer.
Organized by a coalition of both local and national groups under the name Ferguson October, community members and activists are hosting a series of public events over three days—including marches, workshops and panels—in order to “build momentum for a nationwide movement against police violence.”
On Friday afternoon, the family of Michael Brown—the black teenager shot in August by officer Darren Wilson and whose death sparked weeks of protests in the city and a national conversation about race, police violence, and the militarization of local law enforcement—issued a statement welcoming the effort while encouraging peaceful protests.
“While we respect every citizen’s right to free expression,” said the family, “it is our hope that those coming to Ferguson to protest the shooting of our son this weekend do so peacefully and lawfully.”
“We understand first-hand the powerless frustration felt by people of all walks of life regarding their interactions with law enforcement. And for that reason, as Michael Brown’s parents, we ask that those coming to show support for our son do so within the law,” the statement continued.
Though riot police were dispatched in Ferguson on Friday during the later march and eight people were arrested following confrontations, interactions like this one, caught on video, offered a sense of the message and approach of those who took to the streets:
The shooting of another black teenager, Vonderrit Myers Jr., by an off-duty police officer earlier in the week in neighboring St. Louis has added additional tension to the issue of police violence.
As the Guardian‘s Chris McGreal reported from Ferguson on Friday:
According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch:
On Friday, Democracy Now! aired a segment on the weekend events in Ferguson, speaking with three organizing members of the ‘Ferguson October’ coalition—Tef Poe, a St. Louis rapper and activist; Tory Russell, an organizer with Hands Up United; and Ashley Yates, of Millennial Activists United—who described the motivations and hopes fueling the effort.
What participants and supporters are trying to do, explained Yates, is “change the perception of what it means to be young and black. And I think that’s what all of us are doing here. We are young, black. We’re motivated. We’re organized. We are not threats simply because of the color of our skin.”
Watch the full segment:
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